Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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January 2005 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
TOLL FREE BRIDGE THREAT TO MALLAIG TOURISM
The sudden decision, taken at midnight on the 21st December, to abolish the tolls on the Skye Road Bridge understandably delighted Skye residents and visitors to the island. Over the last nine years, more than a hundred people have been fined, some even imprisoned, for refusing to pay tolls which they saw as an unjust levy. Speaking of the abolition Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said it 'will boost tourism and commerce to the benefit not only of Skye and Lochalsh economy, but also across the Highlands as a whole.'
We hope so. But the now free access to Skye from Kyle renews the concerns of Road to the Isles residents that the economy here will suffer. West Word's January 2004 issue carried the copy of a letter from Cllr King to Nicol Stephen asking reassurance that the existing transport links would not be affected. He has been in contact with him again since the announcement and will be meeting him on the 19th January. There will also be a meeting between Cllr King, the Road to the Isles and South Skye Marketing Groups and Cal-Mac.
Councillor King sees a three point strategy. He said 'We need to ensure the next stage of the A830 is finished, and stays on time. We must negotiate a reduction in the ferry fares between Mallaig and Armadale. And we must see that we promote the idea of the Road to the Isles as highly as we can.'
This month there will also be a meeting of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) group, of which Cllr King is a member, to study the case for the Loch Boisdale - Mallaig ferry, a key development for our future.
Andrew Simpson of the Road to the Isles Marketing Group and Chair of the Lochaber Local Economic Forum, said 'When the Skye Bridge opened, we were promised the tolls would always be in place, to protect the ferry route. I don't think it automatic that the area will suffer disastrously but there must be protection for the route to Armadale by Cal Mac, whereby they have a duty to maintain it even if it loses money. If nothing is done, it could decline and the whole economy of Lochaber could be affected, with tourists electing to miss it out of their itinerary altogether. If we can promote it as part of a circular route including Skye, that would be attractive to visitors.'
He continued 'It's unfortunate that start on work for the upgrade of the next stretch of the A830, with inevitable hold-ups, will coincide with the first season of no tolls.'
Alistair Gillies, Chair of Mallaig Community Council and a major hotelier in the village, said 'Our worst worry in Mallaig is that the ferry will be removed. Mallaig, the surrounding area and the south end of Skye depend very much on tourism, especially with the fishing in decline, and without the ferry we would have major problems. We need to get together to market the route to Skye, and call on Cal Mac for cheaper fares.
'After all, this is the true Road to the Isles.'
NEW HOUSES FOR MALLAIG
The last meeting of the Planning Committee in 2004 gave the go-ahead for 18 new homes in Mallaig, to the east of Coteachan Hill and south of Ard Mhor. Seven pairs of semi-detached houses and one block of four two-bedroomed flats are planned. There will be an area for residents to park their cars, a footpath link and playpark area on lower Coteachan Hill. Councillor Charlie King said 'The houses are long overdue and have been made possible by the local housing forum where all parties are involved in discussion.' Meanwhile four Lochaber Housing Association houses are being erected in Morar, near the old hall, and three at Cross Farm, Arisaig. Hopefully it will be Arisaig village's turn next, with Lochaber Housing Association negotiating for a site to build 20 houses in the field to the west of the Hotel Byre. If all goes well with this site, housing could be available by the middle of 2006.
Mallaig Lifeboat crew and personnel gathered at the West Highland Hotel for a festive dinner and dance last month. After partaking of a sumptuous buffet meal, Mallaig Lifeboat Coxswain Bertie McMinn called upon Lifeboat Operations manager (Mallaig), Mr George Lawrie, who provided a brief summary of the past year's events, paying tribute to the effort and dedication of the local lifeboat crew.
Mr Lawrie then paid tribute to Mr Charlie MacGillivray, a dear friend and colleague, who has passed away earlier in the year. He called upon Mrs Ann MacGillivray to come forward and receive a Vellum of Service which detailed the thanks of the RNLI for her husband's 16 years 3 months' service to the Institute. In his time with the RNLI, Charlie had served as Lifeboat Operations Manager, Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer and Deputy Launching Authority at Mallaig Lifeboat Station. Mr Lawrie also presented Mr Arthur MacDonald with his 20 year long service medal.
Mr George Lawrie and Mrs Ann MacGillivray
Mr George Lawrie with Mr Arthur MacDonald
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
We had a lovely surprise last month when a cheque from a 'happy subscriber' arrived - a donation of $1000! This has given us a real boost, what big smiles we had! We thank him very much, and all those who do give us donations. We receive maybe 5 or 6 a year and they range from £1 to £10 and are usually as thanks for including items.
What appalling weather to start the year. Ferries unable to reach the islands, wind battering and rain lashing. I've sat here going through last year's issues for the Review of the Year and it seems to have rained all the time! It must stop surely or I for one am building an Ark.
Up until September, if my memory serves me right, we had only carried the photo of one baby, at her christening, a few years ago. Since September we've had a new born every month and this month we have two! I think it must be that new dads tend to own digital cameras these days! Maybe we should have a Bonnie baby competition like the Oban Times - but where on earth would we find enough independent judges!
General Petrįk honoured
The danger with writing a monthly report for December on the fifth of January is that the excesses of Hogmanay results in a complete loss of memory concerning anything happening before the 31st. However, I shall attempt to peer back into the mists of time, and recall events in the not-so-distant past.
Jim Hunter and friends made their annual pilgrimage to the peninsula, and drew in other fellow musicians to provide a great couple of nights in the pub. Other Old Forge nights included a Salsa dress-up night in honour of Isla's birthday (who else?), and a "dress up in your glad-rags and join the captain at the top table" evening which was apparently taken very seriously. As all fancy-dress nights in Knoydart are. One day they're going to make a documentary about us, and no-one will believe that it's not all staged. Lost doggy stories appear to be a recurring theme in Knoydart at Christmas. After being stranded in Mallaig due to bad weather after a visit home, Nick's luggage and presents (nice kite!) had all been loaded onto Bob's boat. Nick suddenly noticed that his terrier Midge had disappeared. Hours of searching the streets of Mallaig (in somewhat inclement conditions) had no effect - the dog was nowhere to be seen. Over the next couple of days, one or two possible sightings were reported, but nothing confirmed. It was all looking pretty bleak. However, this being a Christmas tale, a happy ending was in store - Midge was found, very cold and wet, shivering under the pier by the steps - stranded on a ledge and unable to move. Nick would like to thank members of the lifeboat crew who assisted with the rescue. Midge would like to thank Nick for the constant shampoos and hot baths.
Hogmanay was agreed by most people to have been excellent this year, despite the horrendous weather which shows no sign of abating. Many started off the evening in style at Sandaig, where John was celebrating his birthday. After enjoying the monster buffet, playing a couple of party games, and playing a couple of frames of snooker, some decamped to the village where the main party seemed to be in the pub. We had been joined for the weekend by a wedding party, who all left the pub at five to midnight to celebrate the bells outside! This left the locals to some space to jump up and down, and dance enthusiastically to Abba (rapidly becoming another Knoydart tradition).
Partying continued at the church (who were the mysterious intimate couple in the conservatory?), Daniel's flat, a caravan, Grant and Lorna's (cheers for the champagne and orange breakfast), Sandy's A Frame, and Davey and Rhona's pad (Great fry-up. Oh, and I'm sure the MOD didn't trace the call, Davey). And that was just the group I was with - splinter groups of revellers ensured that there was barely part of Knoydart not aglow with cheer and spirit(s) at 4am on New Year's Day.
As I write, others are still visiting each other to wish "all the best" for the coming year. It's not so easy for us to make it over to Mallaig, Arisaig, Morar, Eigg, Rum, Muck or Canna - so can I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2005 from Knoydart.
ISLE OF MUCK
Another year is upon us but no change in the weather which has been wetter than average since the start of August. In the old days a wet autumn was usually followed by a cold dry spring. Let's hope so.
Loch Nevis has now been calling for enough of the winter to establish a trend and it is bad news for Muck. The late Bryan Walters predicted that the end of flit boats would mean a worse service for Muck and so it has proved. When he was in command of Wave he rarely failed to meet the steamer. Now we are only averaging two out of three calls a week in a period which has not been particularly windy. On many occasions islanders have reached the entrance to Port Mor only to be carried back to Mallaig. And on occasion this has happened on two services in succession. It hardly encourages people to live on Muck.
On the farm the constant rain has been hard on the stock and made outdoor work unpleasant. The calved cows must be suffering most but they have been getting plenty of silage to offset the lack of shelter. Muck is not the best place for autumn calving. And what has 2005 in store for the farm? It is the first year of the Single Farm Payment which replaces subsidies. On Muck whatever the economists may say some of it will have to be used to keep the cattle and sheep going.
2005 is also year 5 of the 'Totally Tidy Farm' project. By the end of seven years I am hoping to have all the barns reclad, all the machinery under cover and all the rubbish cleared. One problem is getting rid of unwanted machinery. Scrap steel is supposed to have a value on the mainland at least. If I got it there would anyone take it away?
ISLE OF EIGG
December has been a busy time for Eigg Primary School, as Bryony, Lachlan, Kirsty Ann and Kathleen made ready for the Great Christmas Revue Show on Thursday 16 December which also featured nursery pupils Struan and Erin. Under Karen and Gwen's expert guidance, the children performed an array of Christmas goodies, acting, playing and singing to a packed island audience at the pier Tearoom. Bryony Kirk who much enjoyed her stint in Mallaig Primary the week before did a great job of compering the show. The climax was the new "Eiggstars" sequined supergroup where Britney (Bryony) sang alongside Elvis (Lachlan) and the Spice Girls (Kirsty Ann and Kathleen). No wonder that Santa was so keen to come to Eigg and meet all these talented youngsters at the Children's Christmas party on Saturday 18th. As usual he brought a sackfull of presents and even the very young ones managed to walk up to him without too much emotion.
Next came the Lunch Club's Christmas dinner, attended by 30 people this year, a record number, with music provided by Grace, Bean, and Karen Johnstone, Eigg Primary acting head. A big thank you to Karen for putting so much care and fun in the school activities this term. We all wish her a great cycling month in Sri Lanka with her husband in January and look forward to her coming back to Eigg in February until Sarah Watson's return with baby Gregory.
Meanwhile, The Eigg Scrabble championship has ended with Brian Greene keeping the cup for another year. Work has resumed on the Eigg community hall after Simon's break in Peru, it is starting to look very smart. Stewart has almost finished Houlin house, and it is looking very smart too, with the new stone porch contrasting pleasantly with the white washed walls. Kathleen is now packing boxes, ready to move in after Christmas, right on the expected finishing date.
As to Sandavore, it is also advancing by leaps and bounds, and is expected to be ready for the start of the tourist season, sleeping 8 to 10 people. It's great to see all these buildings once verging on the derelict now looking so fine. John and Christine Booth are also making steady progress with Galmisdale House, and were able to have an early Christmas celebration in the former dining room, now fully restored. They are still looking for the location of the septic tank though, so Barry, if you read these lines in far away Seattle, please get in touch with them! More building work in the pipeline for 2005 if all runs according to plans with Brae Cottage and the School House
But now it's time to celebrate the year's end - and get warmed up for Hogmanay with the foot stomping line up Damian has conjured up from Edinburgh's Sandy Bells, featuring Kathryn Nichols and friends! Merry Christmas and happy New Year everyone
PS. We were all sad to hear of the passing of Margaret Fay Shaw, that fine spirited lady. It was a privilege to have met her and the likes of her will not be seen again: our community in the Small Isles will be the poorer for it.
The photo we carried on our front page in January 1995.
West Word - Ten years ago
The third edition of West Word was, once again, a distinct improvement on its immediate predecessor with its 32 pages crammed with information. OK, the back page, What's On, for January 1995, was pretty light, but elsewhere you could find a retrospective Gaelic look back at 1994, local Police Sergeant A MacLean's local crime report, a look back at the childhood memories of Arisaig through the eyes and memories of John and Jessie MacDonald, Tigh-na-Mara, Back of Keppoch, and a sporting look back to the treble winning Mallaig Stars FC - the team of 1978!
The cover (and inside story) was of a Multi Million Pound Investment in Mallaig's Future - a government grant of £4.1 million being awarded to Mallaig Harbour Authority for the construction of a new Outer Breakwater and Harbour Basin.
Two heavyweights in the form of Cameron Mackintosh and Malcolm Spence Q.C. had hard-hitting comments to make about the proposed cut backs to the London-Fort William Night Sleeper while the late Hugh Allen of the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association reported on a reasonable year for the local fishing fleet, but also highlighted the storm damage done to the Gear Stores on West Bay.
On a lighter note, the Personal Angle column revealed that, for his 40th birthday, Billy McMinn had received a matching pair of musical stress balls (I wonder if they are still tinkling ten years later?) while Barry Austin was a £200 winner in the Grand Raffle to raise funds for the new hall on Eigg.
Gisbourne, New Zealand, newly weds Mr and Mrs Alan Johnston were pictured as were Mr & Mrs Archie MacLellan on Archie's retirement after 22 years as Hon Sec to the Mallaig Lifeboat Station.
News was carried of the local Arts Show in the Mallaig heritage centre and a visit to St Kilda on board the Cuma was described. And yes, there was our first ever Free Calendar!
Aerial view of Mallaig, Alberta. Mr. Campbell's work is on the left
Mallaig - Alberta, Canada
My revelations in the December issue of West Word that there was a place on the plains of Alberta, Canada, called Mallaig surprised most of the readership who, until seeing it in this paper, had never known such a place existed, never mind the background as to how it came to have the same name as a small fishing village on the West Coast of Scotland.
Not everyone was surprised though! Retired local businessman Archie MacLellan and his wife Barbara went on holiday to the Canadian Rockies in 1975 and came across the name Mallaig, Alberta, when checking through the list of churches displayed in their hotel room. When he came home, Archie informed the Headmaster of the Junior Secondary School, Mr Angus Maclean, who he believed did make contact with his counterpart in Mallaig Alberta, but little is known of what dialogue ensued. Mr MacLellan also informed me that as far as he was aware Mr D. F. Campbell worked as an engineer on the Mallaig Railway at the turn of the century (the line was officially opened on 1st April 1901) before heading out west to be an engineer on the Canadian Railroad-a move which led him to change the name of the place known only as Viel Siding to Mallaig. Mr MacLellan was of the belief that Mr Campbell had no birth ties to Mallaig, Inverness-shire.
I decided to do a little research and with the kind assistance of the Fort William Registrar Mrs Isobel MacKellaig trolled through some likely years but no trace of a D F Campbell could be found in registration records of North Morar District.
My helpful contact in Mallaig Alberta, Monique Ouellette, has enlisted her sister's help in checking through the Alberta Archive site but to date no new information on Mr D F Campbell has been found. Monique tells me there are only a handful of people in the area who can remember Mr Campbell. One who was 8 years old at the time remembers the Engineer but can't remember his first name. He told Monique that Campbell left Mallaig after the railroad was completed. Where he went after that is anyone's guess although the railroad did carry on East of Mallaig to the Alberta border.
I asked Monique about the significance of the name Viel Siding. This was her reply: 'A family with the last name of Viel homesteaded in this area, and the railroad track passed directly behind their house (100 ft away or so). The route for the railroad was mapped out long before the town was named and because it was such a small community no doubt Mr Campbell got to know the Viel family personally. They were one of the few that had a car, and brought the railroad workers to St. Paul to see the doctor, when need be. They also supplied fresh water, lodging, etc., for the out-of-town workers. 'Siding' means alongside the railroad. Likely the name Viel Siding was only adopted for a couple of years prior to the official naming.'
Eglise St Jean de Brebeuf, R.C. Church in Mallaig, Alberta
I also asked how they pronounced their Mallaig and Monique wrote back: 'Maybe there were too many French people here, or Mr Campbell never stuck around long enough to make sure we pronounced it correctly, but out here we pronounce it Mu-leg (Mu, like Mum with the last syllable dropped, or Muck removing the ck - hope that makes sense!). Monique also supplied the following information on the topography of the area around Mallaig Alberta.
Mallaig is in a low spot and was actually built on a slough. Our area is surrounded by small lakes with a lot of good fishing to enjoy. The landscape is uneven, hilly, but nothing compared to mountains Alberta has on the Western edge. In Saskatchewan, our neighbouring province, the land is so flat you can see 10 - 12 miles all around. Here occasionally you can see a mile of terrain all around. There are few large forests near Mallaig, we have cleared the land for agricultural purposes, there are small clumps of trees here and there.'
I hope to have more information on Mallaig Alberta in further editions of West Word.
West Word is now receiving a number of emails and letters each month from people researching their family tree. We hope our readers will respond if they have any information. This is for genealogical purposes only and is not intended for people looking for friends they have lost touch with.
I'm looking for .
... descendants of the John McAskill = Mary Macdonald family on Rum in the period 1871-1912. This family is mentioned by John A Love in his book on Rum. If anyone has any info on him or his clan I would like to know. I am a great grandson through his son Allan. A granddaughter of John still lives at Teangue,Sleat and John himself is buried in Kilmore Churchyard,Skye, close by. I also wonder if the John MacAskill family at Back of Keppoch in the period 1860-1910 are related to us.
Allan Blair, Vancouver, BC, Canada email@example.com
Last month we printed a plea for information from Stacey MacLean in Canada but replies to her email address were returned. Hope you read this Stacey!
Hi Stacey, Your Bogainn MacDonalds are in the book Fair is the Place, pp.43-345. That is where you probably saw it. If you send me the names of your parent(s) and grandparents in that line I can do a lookup for you. Best regards,
Allan J. Gillis, Ottawa Allan_Gillis@occdsb.on.ca
(Isn't it great to think that West Word is the vehicle for a Canadian resident to answer another Canadian resident's question on forebears in Lochaber! - Ed)
I'm trying to identify the following individuals in the photo (Mrs. J. McLellan, the Misses Nancy, Kitty and Jean McLellan - taken in Scotland) These McLellan's were likely formally of Ardnamurach (south shore of Loch Nevis), North Morar before the village was abandoned? I am related to Gillies' and MacLellan's of Ardnamurach. This is a family photo... it looks like it was taken circa 1920? My Gillies' were over to Glengarry Co., Ontario, Canada in 1871, but I know that MacLellan cousins corresponded with the family until the '20's or '30's. Would like to make family connections.
James Allan McDonald
A REVIEW OF WEST WORD'S YEAR 2004
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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